Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things — and the things that are not — to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.
1 Corinthians 1:26-29
The apostle is dealing with the wisdom of the world versus the inscrutable, marvelous wisdom of God. These believers who were living in ancient Corinth were exalting the wisdom of the world. The Greek custom of philosophizing about everything had penetrated the church and they were dividing into various factions, following certain men, quarreling, boasting, dividing, glorying in men’s ability and men’s power, men’s insight and men’s wisdom.
To deal with this the apostle shows us how God works. He sets it in very simple contrast and he uses these Corinthians themselves as his Exhibit A. He says, “Look at yourselves, consider your own call, look what has happened in your own life.” He then points out two rather obvious, but very important, facts they were evidently overlooking in their thinking. First, he says, “There are not many mighty among you, are there?” Fortunately, Paul did not say “any” mighty. Lady Hamilton, who was an evangelical believer among the English nobility in the early part of this century, used to say she was saved by an “m,” because if it had said not “any” mighty or “any” noble, she would not have made it, but the “m” changed it all and let her in. There in Corinth there were a few who had some standing in the community, but not many. Many of them were slaves, perhaps, unknown people, plain, ordinary people, like you and me.
Some of them were weak, the apostle says, i.e., they had no political or military clout; they were not men of influence; they had no “in” at city hall. They were without power, apparently, to affect life around them, but God chose them. They were made up of what we would call the working classes — artisans, tradesmen, the little people of the world. So, if you are feeling that nobody recognizes you, you ought to rejoice that you are a Christian because power and influence are not necessary to be greatly used of God. God delights in setting aside the impressive things of men.
This does not mean that God does not often use people of status and stature as well. He does, but only, remarkably enough, when they have learned that their usefulness does not derive from their position or their abilities, but rather from his presence in their lives. Is it not strange that we think so highly of the wisdom of the world when God thinks so little of it? Jesus said once, “That which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God” (Luke 16:15 KJV), and all that Paul is saying here seems to flow from that fact. God works in different ways, and what men put great store by, and emphasize as so necessary, is often set aside totally by God; it is abomination in the sight of God.
Thank you, Father, that you although there was nothing to commend me to, you have called me to be your child.
Do we base our worth on the message from the cross, or on worldly wisdom? What is the essential difference between God’s wisdom vs. the world’s legalistic system of human achievement?